- Associated Press - Friday, February 7, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas Court of Appeals judge said Friday that the judicial branch was doing its best to produce timely rulings and legislation to create deadlines was unnecessary.

Judge Patrick McAnany told the Senate Judiciary Committee that judges and justices were aware of concerns about timeliness of decisions and were trying to prompt each other to pick up the pace.

The committee is considering a bill that would create soft deadlines for the district courts, Court of Appeals and Kansas Supreme Court, meaning the deadlines could be missed if proper notice was given to parties in the cases. District courts would have 120 days to rule on motions and nonjury trials; the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals would have 180 days after oral arguments to issue rulings.

McAnany said the 14-member Court of Appeals had its own internal system of the “60-day list” of those cases that were awaiting a ruling 60 days from their court hearing. Last year, the Court of Appeals disposed of 1,221 cases in an average of 51 days.

“It seems to be fairly productive because of the numbers that you see,” he said.

By comparison, the Kansas Supreme Court disposed of 133 cases in an average of 288 days from the date of hearing. However, statistics from the Legislative Research Department suggested that civil cases heard in the past year took an average of 402.6 days - more than 13 months - to be completed.

McAnany defended the figures, saying the Supreme Court typically receives more complex cases that require more consideration.

“I don’t fault them from taking more time,” he said, adding that what is decided often has great public interest and every word could “come back and bite them.”

He also questioned whether the law would infringe on the court’s constitutional authority to oversee court administration.

Senate Vice President Jeff King says six states have similar laws on time limits and can withhold pay from judges who are tardy in their rulings. King said those states all have similar provisions in their constitutions that give the judicial branch authority to administer court operations.

“I think today’s testimony makes it clear, the Kansas Court of Appeals is doing its work in a timely manner,” said King, an Independence Republican and attorney. “We need to do everything we can to encourage swift justice from the Kansas Supreme Court.”

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce said the measure would give the court guidance on cases without rushing any issue to quick judgment.

“Every case is different and we’ve given them discretion in the bill,” said Bruce, a Hutchinson Republican and attorney.

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